According to the latest research from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR), the number of electronic cigarette users worldwide has significantly increased, with 82 million people using e-cigarettes in 2021, a 20% increase compared to 2020.
The research organization KAC stated that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to cigarettes. In a press release, they wrote, “Eight million people die each year from smoking. Therefore, the increase in e-cigarette users is a very positive step in reducing the harm caused by combustible cigarettes and accelerating smoking cessation, with most people quitting altogether.” In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are approximately 984 million smokers worldwide, accounting for one-fifth of the adult population.
This new research was released shortly after the UK government announced its “Quit Smoking for Good” campaign, which aims to provide 1 million smokers with a free starter pack for e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. According to KAC, the UK’s lenient e-cigarette laws have helped lower smoking rates to their lowest level in history.
“However, the UK’s support for e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool stands in stark contrast to many other countries,” KAC wrote. GSTHR data shows that 36 countries have banned e-cigarettes, while 84 have a regulatory or legislative vacuum. Millions of smokers who want to switch to safer e-cigarettes may be forced to buy unsafe products on the black market due to bans or poor or nonexistent product regulation, according to KAC.
Despite restrictive regulations or bans in many countries, more and more people are choosing to switch to safer combustible tobacco alternatives like e-cigarettes. KAC wrote, “As with other countries like New Zealand, the UK provides strong evidence that proactive messaging from governments about tobacco harm reduction can accelerate declines in smoking rates.”